pitbull dog sitting on a veterinary table with a veterinaian standing behind it, giving it an examination
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Non-Profit Vet Clinic in Southern Ontario Offers Hope for Low-Income Pet Owners

Arguably one of the largest expenses associated with pet ownership, the cost of veterinary care can be extensive. While most responsible pet owners will budget for the basics, such as vaccinations or the spay/neuter procedures, an injury or unknown disease or illness is impossible to predict and can be incredibly stressful on the bank account. Compound this with the fact that these situations may arise at the worse times in our lives, such as following the loss of a job, even the most responsible of pet owners may wind up in a difficult situation.

A new non-profit vet clinic recently opened up in Kitchener, the first of its kind in the area, East Village Animal Hospital provides veterinary services to those who may not otherwise be able to afford proper care for their pets including those on social assistance and non-profit organizations. They also provide a spay/neuter program for feral and barn cats in the area, alleviating the pressure on local rescue groups to manage the situation.

Opening in July 2017, the clinic has already been inundated with calls and emails from pet-owners across Southern Ontario. At this time an average day at the clinic includes approximately 15 spay and neuter procedures and 6-8 general medical appointments. “We find this isn’t just about helping pets,” explained the clinic’s executive director, Laurie Ristmae. “The much bigger picture is we help people.”

small dog being held by a veterinarian on a veterinary table during an examination, looking over the veterinarian's shoulder

While this may be the first time a clinic like this has operated in the Kitchener area, it is not the first clinic for East Village Animal Hospital. Their first has been in London since 2014. During that time, they have provided general medical and surgical care to over 10,000 pets, and spaying, neutering and vaccinations to more than 16,000 animals.

How do the clinics operate? To begin with, the costs of the procedures are significantly lower than that which you see at many other veterinarian clinics in Southern Ontario. One example, according to the hospital manager Ann-Marie Patkus-Cook, involved a client who was quoted $725 to euthanize their dog (including cremation). While the owner wanted to do what was best for their pet, this cost was more than they were able to afford at the time. At the East Village Animal Hospital, the same owner was quoted $200. To access their low-cost services patients simply need to show proof of low income or social assistance.

Furthermore, the clinic runs a ‘donation-jar’ to assist those who are unable to financially handle their services at this time. The ‘jar’ is stocked by the hard work of the staff and volunteers, fundraising throughout the year, as well as generous donations made by clients, community members and local groups. In the event of an emergency situation, the fund can be used to cover vet fees as a micro-loan to the client. They agree upon a set principal amount that they can afford to pay back and over time they can pay off the full cost.

“I think it’s the right of everybody to have a pet, regardless of income,” stated Dr. Martha Harding, the clinic’s owner. “There is much data to show that low-income individuals are happier, our senior citizens stay more active, our neighbours with mental health [issues] have fewer catastrophic events, if there is a pet – a friend – in the home.”

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    1. I love that someone is standing up and trying to make a difference for those who may be struggling – it can be SO costly (my one girl is accident prone lol)

  1. This is a beautiful read. There are really kind people out there who does their best to make lives easier for everyone. Pets included.

  2. What a great service to provide. Everyone loves their babies and many fall on hard times and can’t properly care for them, but don’t want to turn them over to a shelter either 🙁

    1. That’s just it – Someone who is currently in a bad place may not be an irresponsible owner that couldn’t afford to take on a pet. They may have been in a great place at one point, and the situation changed.

  3. Im happy that a clinic like this exists. I hope that more and more clinics will sprout and consider the welfare of the neglected or sick animals more than business.

    1. Isn’t it amazing that these professionals have come together to provide something that could have such a HUGE impact for those in need?

  4. This is fantastic!! It’s one of the worst things in the world when a pet gets injured or seems sick and there’s nothing you can do because you can’t afford the vet bill… My family’s dog went through so much because of this.. injuries seemed “small enough” to skip professional help, but it was still clear he was suffering. That should never have to happen..

    1. Yes! There’s so much judgment about those who can’t afford care, but in a lot of cases the owner COULD when they took the pet in, but circumstances changed. I know that I had about a year between jobs at one point where if something major happened, I would have been in trouble… I’ve had my dog for 11 years now and the rest of the time I was financially solid and prepared for anything that came my way (within reason). You never know someone’s story!

  5. This is really great information for people who have pets. People may feel like they cannot have their pets taken care of. Very helpful especially during these times!!?

    1. Yes! I hate the idea that there are families out there who may have fallen on hard times and feel like they can’t provide the care their pet needs. A clinic like this is HUGE!